News

Supes give red light to Ladera traffic lights

The county has put the brakes on a controversial proposal to spend $500,000 to install traffic lights on Alpine Road at two intersections in Ladera -- at La Mesa and La Cuesta drives.

After hearing Tuesday (July 10) from five speakers who opposed the lights, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors agreed that the matter needed further study, said former Portola Valley mayor Jon Silver, who attended the meeting.

Putting traffic lights in a community that has plenty of them already is one thing, but putting them in the arterial that leads to Portola Valley, where there are no such lights, is quite another, Mr. Silver said in an interview. "It's a big deal to us."

Besides, Portola Valley had not heard about the proposal until reading about it in the Almanac, Mr. Silver said. County staff should have notified all stakeholders, including Portola Valley residents, Mr. Silver said in recounting concerns expressed to him by the current mayor, Maryann Derwin.

Ms. Derwin asked and the board agreed to separate the traffic light plan from another Alpine Road proposal -- to redesign a bike lane near Interstate 280 where a cyclist was killed in 2010. In a unanimous vote, the board agreed to ask the county Transportation Authority to spend $175,000 to redesign the bike lane.

The Transportation Authority dispenses funds from Measure A half-cent sales tax revenues, which are devoted to transportation projects. The Transportation Authority will decide in September on this and other funding requests from around the county.

Traffic lights

The Ladera Homeowners Association had asked the county public works department to look into ways to address congestion at the La Cuesta and La Mesa drive intersections. The department concluded that "both intersections warrant traffic signals in order to improve traffic flowing onto Alpine Road at peak hours and to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety," according to a staff report.

The department proposed that the supervisors seek $500,000 in Measure A funds for the project.

Supervisor Dave Pine, with the consent of the board, asked staff to look for grant funding that would pay for further study on the traffic light proposal and report back to the board in 60 to 90 days, Mr. Silver said.

Mr. Silver, a former county planning commissioner, said he was "really amazed" that the town had not been consulted. "I just think it was odd and a really crappy process," he said. "If you want to stir up a hornets' nest, that's one way to do it."

Comments

Posted by Mike, a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Jul 10, 2012 at 10:22 pm

Really? Traffic lights on Alpine road? Because those lame-o's in Ladera don't have the time to wait 10 extra seconds to get onto Alpine in the morning? So now everyone in PV has to wait? REALLY!?!?!?!!
You people are RIDICULOUS!


Posted by Lamo, a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Jul 11, 2012 at 8:38 am

If you read more dear Portola Valley neighbor, you'd find many in Ladera don't want the lights.

Perhaps if you could get that nice 40mph section of Alpine reduced to 35mph like the rest of Portola Valley, we "Lamo's" would have the extra seconds we'd need to get into the turning lane, and you'd have a bit more time to slow down so we can merge?

Can't afford to waste that 12 seconds you gain by driving 5 mph faster? (That's if it was a mile long stretch which it isn't)

SLOW DOWN!! You manage to do 35 mph in your own neck of the woods. Perhaps you'd all be willing to lose 10 seconds in front of Ladera by backing a speed limit of 25mph, then we'd have no need for the light at all.

Now, we do have Laderans who do need to learn how to use our nice turning lanes. We are trying to be patient with them by not calling them "Lamo's"


Posted by Alfred Person, a resident of Woodside: other
on Jul 11, 2012 at 11:00 am


Sure, slow down, but why is there no enforcement to remind folks to slow down? When I drive through PV on Portola, everybody know to limit their speed or they will eventually get a ticket. Not so for Alpine. PV would do well do redeploy some of its forces to support Ladera in slowing traffic down considering the alternative of lights.

And whose brilliant idea is it to start with two lights. One would be enough.

That and I doubt that even cyclists are enthused about the light idea. The last thing that riders from MP and surrounding want to do is have to stop at a light to wait for turning traffic.

Overall, it does seem like there are other less egregious alternatives than starting with lights.

Sure, we should all slow down and be mindful, but a lot of the traffic that heads in and out of PV/Ladera is not even local residents: think Alpine Hills, Priory, Churches, Ladera Shopping/Business, various soccer/baseball teams, Windmill, Camps, etc. Patrol this traffic and get it to realize that there will be consequences for letting loose. Maybe even consider rumble strips at La Cuesta.

I do agree that its pretty irritating for the county to get all the way to voting on a proposal without giving it a hearing in PV. That's entirely unreasonable.


Posted by Zoom Zoom, a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Jul 11, 2012 at 12:37 pm

Dear Mr. Person,

IF the speed limit allowed safe crossing of the street for people of all ages, IF the speed limit was followed by drivers, IF the speed limit was enforced, even enough of the time for people to know not to speed through Ladera much the way people have been taught not to speed in Portola Valley because you know you'll get a ticket, there would be no need for traffic mitigation.

However, people drive too fast, they ignore pedestrians attempting to cross Alpine Road, and past performance suggests that speed enforcement between Portola Valley and Menlo Park is not a priority of local law enforcement. Our county (unincorporated) area simply has less budget for such things than the Town of Portola Valley.

Let's work together to find a solution beneficial to all.


Posted by Las Lomitas District parent, a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Jul 11, 2012 at 12:39 pm

Thank you Lamo! Well said. The real issue is speed and safety on Alpine. Much like in politics, the issue has been named something more sensational to get people riled up. If you talk to most Laderans, they will agree that the wait times are long only during one hour of the day and only during school days. It's not about wait times -- it's about cars turning safely onto Alpine and about cyclists and pedestrians crossing Alpine safely. Everyone needs to slow down.

And I agree with Alfred that we could use some stepped-up speed limit enforcement on Alpine. It would be great income for the county for a while until people figure it out. Maybe use the speeding ticket money to fund on-demand crosswalks?


Posted by Neighbor, a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Jul 11, 2012 at 12:55 pm

As anresident of Ladera for twenty-three years, I am glad the supervisors had the sense to put the brakes on this idea. If there is only one light, say, at La Mesa, everyone in Ladera will certainly take the La Cuesta route. If there are two, which seems ridiculous, dozens of people are waiting on Alpine for the two cars that are lined up in Ladera trying to make a left. I agree that better enforcement of the speed limit and educating people about using the middle lane is crucial to safety, and I'd love to see both of those things.


Posted by Lamo, a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Jul 11, 2012 at 1:57 pm

No lights.. not even one would be needed if the LAW as present to enforce the law.

We could put reminders in the middle of the road (Like in Portola Valley) that STOPPING at crosswalks when pedestrians are present is THE LAW for $300 per sign plus installation ($100?) . I don't think anyone would like the fines, but you can't argue with the need.

This took a while to find... Web Link Looks like not yielding could cost you a minimum of $342 by the time they are done adding everything up. So, one ticket might just about cover the cost of putting up one sign. (Yes, I know, oddly the ticket hardly covers its own cost for bureaucracy)

Adding another crosswalk where's its more appropriate.. .. $3/linear foot of paint... plus another middle of the road sign. (40 ft across x 2 + 10 ft x 40 diagonals) x $3/ft = less than $1500 in work. Bottom line, $2500 to put in the equivalent of what Portola Valley has in front of it's town center. I'm sure a few "Lamo's" would be willing to help this happen before school starts.

Wow... there are a few other Laderan's who might just not be "lamo's" Any others willing to pay to help slow folks down?


Posted by Patron of business in Ladera area, a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Jul 11, 2012 at 2:45 pm

I need to go in and out of several driveways everyday on Alpine Road (Webb Ranch) and to access (and spend money!) at the nice businesses in the Ladera shopping center and it is a loooooong wait during typical commute times on Alpine Road to get safely in and out of these driveways. The middle turn lane in front of the shopping center is helpful, but the gas station is scarey and there is no middle lane in front of the Webb Ranch driveway - which would be very helpful. My 2 cents.


Posted by PV Lover, a resident of another community
on Jul 11, 2012 at 3:13 pm

Improved turning lanes would be a far better solution in my opinion than traffic lights. Far cheaper, as well.

I would rather have a robocop to issue speeding tickets than a light.


Posted by A. Person, a resident of Woodside: other
on Jul 11, 2012 at 4:39 pm

Really, I think Lamo (who is not at all lame) and others have it right: IF there was adequate enforcement, light or lights would not be needed. PV, you guys clearly benefit the most from not having lights, how about pitching in to support that section of road. As others have pointed out, the effort might even be self funding. Of course then again you guys just blew all your extra reserves on stock speculation ;-).

Also the big problem with the merge lane at La Cuesta is that it is not sufficiently segregated from traffic barreling down Alpine (which as already noted shouldn't be happening anyway). If folks could turn into the lane with a separating median, they'd be more willing able to safely make the turn while traffic is passing.


Posted by Another Lamo, a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Jul 11, 2012 at 8:29 pm

I agree with Lamo and A Person. If the PV folks would not barrel down our neck of the woods going 40+ mph between 7:30-8:30am, we would never need the light.
Not only is the center merge lane not sufficiently segregated, but the clueless PV drivers in their extra wide SUVs frequently honk at me and swerve their cars when I use this lane because they think I'm about to cut them off. I wish they would treat our neighborhood as if it was their own and SLOW DOWN. If they were living below us, it would just be the same people with the opposite viewpoints.


Posted by Donald, a resident of another community
on Jul 11, 2012 at 9:18 pm

There is no enforcement because civic leaders want it that way. The town is the customer and the sheriff's office does what they want. They have been directed not to issue traffic tickets to drivers, which might annoy PV residents who recevie the tickets, but to focus on bicyclists. The result is the situation you see today.


Posted by Zoom Zoom, a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Jul 11, 2012 at 10:48 pm

The San Mateo County unincorporated area commonly known as Ladera is not a town. It is not under the jurisdiction of the Town of Portola Valley, or any other town. The San Mateo County Supervisors oversee things like law enforcement budgeting for this area and, to the best of my knowledge, that budget is spread throughout all of San Mateo County.

Compared to many areas of the county, we have it good out here, true. However, compared to the Town of Portola Valley, the unincorporated area has fewer dollars for speed enforcement. To further complicate matters, the California Highway Patrol works along with the San Mateo County Sheriff's office to enforce the speed, or rather, they're supposed to, but it doesn't happen.

We need to work together, the residents of the Town of Portola Valley and the residents of the "Portola Valley" areas like Ladera. We're all neighbors. We work together. We play together. Our kids know each other. Please help us get the situation improved for the safety of all. Perhaps adjusting the speed limit, and enforcing it, would make the 'threat' of a stop light moot.


Posted by jackrabbit, a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge
on Jul 12, 2012 at 9:35 am

SM County Building staff should be FIRED en masse for proposing traffic signals at a cost of $500K where they are not needed. What a bunch of non-thinking imbeciles. I refer everyone to a re-issued book by Phillip Howard called "The Death of Common Sense". This country with recommendations such as that proposed by the SM County staff signals the need to thin out government bureacracies. With no funds available how can such a ludicrous idea be offered let alone considered.


Posted by Bob, a resident of Portola Valley: Brookside Park
on Jul 12, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Thanks to Jon Silver and the others who contacted the Supervisors and let them know the wide-spread opposition to traffic lights on Alpine. Now, let's all be good neighbors and stay at 35 or less on Alpine. Why there is the island of 40mph for a short stretch has always been a mystery to me; let's show goodwill and solidarity and help our Ladera neighbors by asking the Supervisors to mandate all of Alpine at 35 max. Not much to ask and the right thing to do for all.


Posted by Lamo, a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Jul 12, 2012 at 3:23 pm

Patron of business in Ladera area....

I pray when you say "the gas station is scary" you don't mean turning into the Shell Station's driveway directly. That is when things indeed get very very scary. Turning right then swinging around the island shouldn't be too scary.

Of course if YELLOW scares you then I can see why the Shell is scary.

A worse situation exists for Ladera Oaks extra parking lot has a left turn that would be essentially in the middle of the left hand turning bay for those trying to enter La Mesa from PV. I'm not sure how that is fixable.

PERHAPS... one answer to the Shell Station quandary is to close that exit entirely. The Shell would have some extra parking and some of the Ladera's shopper's traffic would end up at the center exit to turn left. (Lots of exits to turn right).

As for tickets., do you need a cop around to know to do the "RIGHT THING"? Sometimes they are there. They need to make is more regular part of their schedules. Preferably during high exit traffic time, which isn't Ladera Lamo's... but thanks to our local private school, which was long ago less of a traffic problem to the community when it was for Ladera kids, but we love Woodland, and they help fund our schools, so give them a break!


Posted by big picture, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 12, 2012 at 5:15 pm

Whether there haave been any there have been accidents, as well as traffic volume/speed turning movements/cross street delays are all factors that are valid to consider when looking into a potential for traffic controls (lights, stop signs etc).

I believe I recently heard of other area in the unincorporated county -- including just a little lower on Alpine at Bishop where neigjhbors are asking for consideration of a signal - no analysis of it yet.

And when the COunty approved the large "Big Wave" project in the coastside Princeton Harbor/Half Moon Bay Airport area, it came out that a light could be warranted in the future on Highway 1 at Cypress Road where they have been accidents, but the County said it doesn't have the money to do it.

The County continues to address a huge structural deficit (about $150M), and the State keeps taking more money from Cities and Counties to try to address its multi billion structural deficit too. We have to prioritize -- and where proven safety problems exist, serious thought to creative public-private or multi-jurisdictional means of putting together the required funding for improvements seems wise.


Posted by Marty, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 14, 2012 at 1:15 am

Would 3 way stop signs rather than lights help? I'm surprised by the number of drivers who do not know how to use the current merging lanes. This seems especially true of parents exiting from Woodland school.

I really would like a way of slowing down traffic rushing past the Ladera shopping center. Having to come to a stop at La Mesa and La Cuesta would slow things down.


Posted by Ladera Cyclist, a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Jul 14, 2012 at 5:54 pm

@Marty, stop signs would certainly do the trick, but the San Mateo County planning folks have repeatedly said that they can't/won't support putting stop signs there on Alpine because it will back traffic up beyond Westridge Drive.

As to suggestions to just increase enforcement: past history has shown that these efforts are only maintained for a short while and any relief is temporary.

We need some sort of permanent fix to the speed and safety issues.

If lights are too intrusive, and stop signs too disruptive, and roundabouts impractical because of space considerations, maybe we should do speed bumps or speed tables. That would certainly slow people down!


Posted by Marty, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 16, 2012 at 11:43 pm

@Ladera cyclist. Speed bumps sound like a good idea.


Posted by Angela Hey, a resident of Portola Valley: Brookside Park
on Jul 17, 2012 at 2:26 am

It would be better to get rid of the merge lanes. People entering Alpine would need to wait until the traffic is clear in both directions. Even at rush hour the wait is less than 5 minutes. Have patience.

Trucks should be fined for parking in the middle lane.

The middle lane can then be marked as turn lanes at appropriate junctions. My fear is that cars coming up Alpine may overtake and hit cars or bikes turning into the Ladera shopping center.

A bridge for pedestrians and bikers would make it safer to cross Alpine.


The Shell station exit is awkward. In theory people exiting the Shell station should wait until La Cuesta is clear but that can be tricky.

Slowing cars on Alpine would increase wait times for cars entering Alpine.

Given police dine in Ladera whether they are paid by Portola Valley or the County shouldn't be a consideration. If someone is breaking the speed limit or handling a phone any time the police are on duty the police should fine them. Too many drivers entering Alpine use phones when driving - not least mothers in SUVs. There also need to be places where people who do need to phone can pull off the road legally so they don't block the shoulder for bikers.


If you were a member and logged in you could track comments from this story.

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

September food and drink goings on
By Elena Kadvany | 0 comments | 1,471 views

College Freshmen: Avoiding the Pitfalls
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 1 comment | 1,269 views

Camp Glamp
By Laura Stec | 8 comments | 1,146 views

Council election, and then some.
By Stuart Soffer | 5 comments | 488 views

Those Constantly Pulling the Race Card
By Martin Lamarque | 0 comments | 43 views